Like most people, I was tasked to read Hemingway in high school, never appreciating his writing until I became an adult. Gerry and I began visiting Key West a few times, also the home of Ernest Hemingway for a number of years, so he became part of our yearning to know more about Key West, hence, reading his books with a fresh set of eyes.
Later, we were on a trip to the Bahamas with my dad, and discussed how he needed to visit Key West. Key West is right up his ally, but he never thought about going there. I made the comparison between his looks, and those of Hemingway’s. My dad, as he has aged, has gone gray, and grown a beard; I told him he should enter the Hemingway Look-a-like contest in Key West, as that would get him on a trip down to the Conch Republic. A few months later, he asked about the application process. We downloaded it, he completed it, mailed it in, and all of a sudden, with the help of a postage stamp, Ernest Hemingway became a huge part of our lives.
My dad became fixated, in a way I had never seen him before, on the process of preparing for this journey towards “Hemingway Days” in Key West. Being somewhat obsessive on a project myself, I began to help him with the campaign of sorts. We started finding photos of Hemingway, and re-creating them with dad , then posting on his Facebook page, that we created to drum up support for him. It was, in Hemingway’s words, a great journey that we enjoyed, every step of the way. The whole family became involved, re-creating scenes, finding photos for him, and coming up with ideas of how to get more people involved. We even created shirts with his depiction on them, koozies, bells, sunglasses, and even his face on a stick, that we could hold up in the crowd at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, during the contest.
As the countdown continued to bring us closer to heading down to South Florida, the more excitement we had about how closely my dad looked like Hemingway. My dad arrived in The Keys earlier than we did, so he went to visit the Hemingway House, and his stomping ground along the island. When we arrived, we had a schedule to follow, of his appearance to all things Papa. Papa, by the way, is what the Conchs (the locals) in Key West, call Ernest Hemingway.
In the span of a week, Hemingway, Papa, Ernest Hemingway, whatever you want to call him, became the center of every conversation, thought, and our world, in general. Also, came the contest, the disappointment in his loss, but also the joy that we all had in breathing in the air from the US Southernmost Point, and of course planning for the contest again next year.
2019 brought more Hemingway than I could ever imagine. Knowing what I know about Papa, he would most likely enjoy the adventures we all had in his honor, celebrating his birthday during Hemingway days, and I also know that his ego would allow him the enjoyment in the fact that his name is spoken more in our family, than any other word, and will continue until the 2020 Hemingway Days. That quote, I referenced in the beginning, about the journey… “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end”, we live it, and are thankful for what the journey brings us, and our family. Until next year, Papa.